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One of the many hoops that the Chilean government has us gringos jumping through, like trained seals (or are those dolphins?) is going to Registro Civil to get a “certificado de antecedentes.” This is a perforated form that they give to you at low cost (anyone know how much these days, I seem to recall 800ish pesos) that certifies that you have not been convicted of a criminal act here in Chile. The last time I had to get one, it was to turn my residencia sujeto a contrato (limited residency, subject to my work contract) to residencia definitiva (definitive (not permanent) residency).

And as I walked down the street, pastel blue and white form in hand, someone offered to buy it from me. Certificado? Certificado? he said. What? Certificado! Se compra! (I’ll buy it). Really? How much? A ver, (let’s see) he said. He offered me 10,000 pesos, and I assume he had a bottle of liquid paper (say: correctór) or similar in his pocket, with which he would change the name, and presumably the RUT (national ID number). While I feel for people who want jobs, despite having transgressed in the past, fraud is not one of the experiences I’m looking to collect before my next birthday.

So I said no.

And this got me thinking about identity theft. I mean, this wasn’t exactly identity theft, so much as it was identity borrowing. And maybe not even really borrowing, since all of my identifying information would be erased. So then I was thinking about identity borrowing, which brings me to medical care.

What do you do if you have a situation that requires medical care, but you have neither ISAPRE (private health insurance) nor FONASA (state health insurance)? Well, if your doctor is complicit and so is your buddy, you use that person’s carnet (national ID card) to buy a bono (copay coupon). You return your friend’s carnet, present the bono to the centro de atención médica (clinic), see the doc, and everyone is happy. Oh, except for the people who monitor fraud, and probably public health.

Who would do such a thing? Who doesn’t have medical insurance? People in the informal economy, that’s who. Or people who are cesante (unemployed). I bet if you asked around, you’d find that someone you know has done it. I’m not naming any names, but I’m telling you, it’s out there.

All of this came to my mind recently because my US-based credit card company has recently employed new identity protection, because my 12-letter caps and lowercase password with numbers in it wasn’t enough. Now they had me select from a set of questions that they will ask me when I log in.

I’m all for other people not using my credit card, but the questions seemed singularly crafted to alienate me, their user.

The entire first page of questions were ones I could not answer.

Pet’s name (don’t have a pet)
Favorite TV show (don’t have a TV)
Father’s profession (idem)
First car (oy!)
Husband’s name (seriously?)
Anniversary (what?)
How you like your hamburgers cooked (okay, this one might be hyperbole)

I was starting to feel like some kind of a non-tv watching, non-animal-loving, anticar, fatherless misanthrope when I saw that there was a second page of questions, where I was asked things like shoesize (yay! I wear shoes!), date eldest sibling was born (yay! I have a sibling!), etc. I felt somewhat better about myself but worried about the shoeless and siblingfree. I’ve been told I’m overly empathetic. What say you?

And lest you think that Chile is not concerned about identity theft, I will tell you that when I pay bills online (or transfer money), I am asked not only for my password, but also the coordinates on a little plastic card that I was issued a few years ago. In what can only be described as a you-sunk-my-battleship precision (with apologies to anyone who never played this peace-mongering game) , I type the numbers into the dialog box and money disappears from my bank account. Win-win, so long as I don’t lose the card. Though I bet that guy who offered to buy my certificado de antecedentes could hook me up.